First Lines

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Is there anything more exciting than picking up your pen and writing the first line of a new book? Is there anything more enchanting than opening the cover of a book and reading that first line? First lines are oftentimes the words upon which we judge the entire reading experience. They draw us in or compel us to return the book to the shelf in search of something else. First lines may not make or break a story, but their importance cannot be denied.

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My good buddy Tracey @ Adventure Awaits recently did a post about the first lines of her stories, and I enjoyed it immensely. So I thought I’d compile a list of my own here… and since I mostly only write fantasy, it also works with the monthly theme! Also, forgive me, some of these are a bit longer than just the first line… obviously we’ve got some flexibility when it comes to “RULES” around here! (I like to think of them as more “guidelines than actual rules”) *grin*

Have you written a Fantasy post yet? Make sure you add the URL to the linky list HERE so that we can all stop by and read it!

I’ll start with the ones you’re pretty familiar with already and go on from there…

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Graldon, King of the dragons, mighty lord of the skies over Aom-igh, handed the golden sword to the mere man who stood before him. “This one thing will I give thee.” 

(King’s Warrior/published)

***

The young apprentice peered up at the sky, a puzzled look in his bright eyes.“But what does it mean, Master? I don’t understand.”

(Second Son/published)

***

Oraeyn sat on the shore and gazed up at the stars. The heat of the day had long since fled though the air and the sand beneath him still held a certain warmth. A cool breeze wafted pleasantly across his face, whispering promises of adventure and rest in equal strength. The gentle rustle of the waves washed up to meet the shore in a steady rhythm. On the horizon, the Toreth rose: a large, silver disc that hovered over the water like a glimmering beacon. It beckoned him though he knew not where it might lead. His head ached, though he had removed his crown before leaving the palace to wander along the shores of his kingdom.

(Yorien’s Hand/published)

***

It was dawn when my brothers and I awoke for the first time. Brightness assailed my vision as I stared about, blinking in confusion and curiosity. I was aware of others around me, but my attention was drawn to a single presence that filled me with joy and awe. I glanced from side to side, exercising my new eyesight. A blinding light slashed across my vision and I immediately covered my eyes. I lifted my wings to my face. I was astonished to find that I possessed wings.

(Minstrel’s Call/in production/editing)

***

The long stone hallways of Thorndale castle stood empty and silent. On this overcast afternoon only gray light fell through the high windows to bathe the castle in gloom. Once-brilliant tapestries, their colors now muted by dust, lined the walls and deadened the sound of Karyna’s footsteps as she made her way to Princess Bellenya’s vacant chambers.

(Stone Curse/published)

***

Firelight flickered across the old man’s face, shadows making his wrinkles seem deep, deeper than they were. The room was small and nearly empty, bare of decoration. There was a small rug, woven in threads of blue and gray, in front of the hearth and the wooden chair in which the old man sat staring into the dying fire. Three walls of the small garrett were lined with bookshelves and every shelf was filled with large, ancient, hard-bound books, dusty from disuse. In the middle of the room was a small, square table with two mismatched chairs. Against the fourth wall, which boasted no shelves, was a small, polished wood counter with a sink that allowed running water, an odd luxury for so poor a dwelling. A cabinet held a few pieces of pottery, presumably for holding food, and further down the wall rested an old cot with a straw mattress.

(The Orb and the Airship: Turrim Archive book 1/drafted)

***

A roaring fire blazed merrily in the hearth of the large room. Its light mingled with those of the torches that hung in elaborate, black iron sconces on the walls, and the tall candelabras that adorned the massive, wooden table. The table was covered with a cloth of fine, white linen, and set with crystal chalices and dishes that were rimmed with gold. The feast laid out could have fed an entire village for several days. Fruit of every variety, an entire pig, as well as large slabs of mutton and beef, and enormous loaves of bread filled the surface of the table, along with various other delicacies and trifles.

(Turrim Archive book 2/rough draft halfway complete)

***

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess. All the land loved her. But one day, a dragon came and kidnapped the princess. He stole her away and kept her locked in a tall tower…

“Ella! Get your shoes on, it’s time to go to the market!”

Ella dropped the book she had been reading and scrambled about, getting her stockings and her shoes and pulling them on hurriedly. Her mother was waiting at the front door.

“Ready?”

(Cinderella retelling/drafted)

***

I believe that all this nonsense started with my christening, although some might argue that I was doomed from the day of my birth. I was the youngest child and only daughter of the Chieftain of Alagonia. I had three elder brothers, the youngest of which was fully ten years my senior, and they all doted on me from a young age and probably did their best to spoil me. Had I been any more inclined towards vanity, I probably would have soaked up their attention and been quite intolerable. As it was, I took their regard for granted, but never allowed it to go to my head.

(Glass Hill fairy tale retelling/rough draft begun)

***

The warm breeze wafting off the island caressed my nostrils with the scent of blossoming fruit trees. Flowery, citrusy, sweet, tangy: the smells of fruit both familiar and unidentifiable filled the air, surrounding our small vessel with an embrace of welcome. We threw ropes to the men working on the dock and they pulled us in to shore.

She was standing on the shore, just a step or two off the pearl-white dock. The gentle zephyr that brought the smells from unseen orchards to our noses ruffled her pale blue dress and played with her sable hair, making it float gently around her face. We disembarked and made our way towards her. She greeted us in a voice that was both kind and yet stern. Her voice whisperedin each of our ears as though she spoke to each one of us alone.

(unnamed short story related to Turrim Archive/rough draft finished)

***

The whole world looked muffled.  If you’ve ever lived within a University dormitory and had to put your head under your pillow to try and get sleep or if you’ve ever heard a conversation through a wall you would know the feeling.  However, Devlin blinking hard at the hazy surroundings, noted that the world did not sound muffled, it looked muffled.

(The Mirror/barely begun)

***

“Thanks, Billy. That’s all I needed to know.”

Logan planted his phone back in its receiver and grinned fiercely. “I’ve got you now, Mister Jordane, and I’m coming.”

He gazed at the open folder spread out before him on his large, battered, mahogany desk and bit the inside of his cheek. This was not what he had been hired to find out, but it would put Jordane away for a good long while. He shook his head. Most of his clients found out more than they wanted to, the things he discovered should not surprise him anymore. Glancing at his watch, Logan closed the folder and stuffed it inside a large manilla envelope. The thick folder hit the bottom of the envelope with a satisfying ‘thunk.’

(Oriole/rough draft partially begun)

***

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And that’s all I’ve got right now. Any favorites from the ones I’ve shared? What sorts of opening lines/paragraphs tend to catch your attention? What kinds of opening hooks do you like to start your own writing with? I’d love to hear from you!

~ jenelle

10 Comments

DJ Edwardson

This is a great idea for a post. You’re right, opening lines are the best. I may just have to do this post as well.

I think the King’s Warrior one is my favorite. It sets an epic tone with so few words. Really well done. I like the imagery from the “unnamed” Turrim story as well.

As for me, I like to start all my books with the same line, “It was a dark and stormy night…” (ha ha!)

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jenelle

Feel free to steal it… I stole it, myself! haha

Ooh, now I have this idea for a great story beginning with “It was a dark and stormy night…” no idea where the story will head or is about, but I have this entire scene all figured out. Ahhh! Plot bunnies!

Thanks! That bit of KW went through so many edits and changes, I’m glad to know people like the way it turned out!

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The Florid Sword

I am really enjoying this tag series thingy! You and Tracey and Christine… If I had a blog, I would do this one, but as it is I will just read all of yours.
Anyway. My favorite one was the one for Oriole – I need to find out what happens. Like, now.
My first lines always set the landscape for the first chapter, like describing the dark and stormy night without saying “It was a dark and stormy night.” I need to work on this.

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jenelle

Thanks for commenting! *grins* the Oriole one is one of my favorites, as well. It’s going to be so different from anything else I’ve ever written. I am itching to write it!

The great thing about first lines is that they can always be edited. Another reader asked over on facebook if these first lines had changed any from rough draft to published version and for the ones that have been published the answer is a resounding, “YES!” The ones that are still in rough draft form may remain the same… they may still end up tweaked upon… who knows?

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Madeline J. Rose

These are SO GOOD! :D
I really love the last two, one from The Mirror, and the other from Oriole. They seriously make me want to read them. Like, A LOT. <3
And all of your imagery is so, so good. I really get a picture of where the story is, and what's happening there. I'm still working on perfecting my imagery in my own stories. :)

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jenelle

Thanks so much! I’m glad you enjoyed them. Going back through these made me very impatient to write ALL of them… like… NOW… which, sadly, isn’t really possible. But it’s fun to be excited about the back-log of stories I have in my pocket to work on in the future.

Imagery is one of my favorite things to write. I really enjoy painting pictures with words. One of the things I learned back in high school was how important all five sense are in really making imagery pop off the page… so I tend to spend a lot of time trying to figure out things like, “What are the smells in this scene?” “What do things feel like, even if nobody’s touching the wood on the banister or the stone on the walls, I can describe the way it WOULD feel if they did….” is there a taste in this scene? Even air can have a certain flavor. Sight and hearing are important, too, of course… but tend to be easier to convey :)

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Deborah O'Carroll

Love these! I so enjoyed reading them. ^_^ I can’t pick a favorite… I will say however that I’m verrry much wanting to read your retellings (a Glass Hill one? Neat!) and the Turrim Archive short story one was so gorgeous, and I need that series (and Minstrel’s Call!) and I wanna know more about The Mirror because I’m intriiigued. XD Anyways, thanks for sharing! Sooo fun! <3

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I love hearing from you, dear Reader!